Career Guide: Attorney

As everyone in the United States possesses the right to legal representation, attorneys play a vital role in the American legal system. These professionals interpret the law and aid clients caught up in legal disputes. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, attorneys benefit from a strong job projection and relatively high median salary. Individuals considering the substantial time and financial investment needed to pursue a career as an attorney can find plenty of information in this guide, and the websites linked below. Keep reading to learn more.

What Does an Attorney Do?

In short, attorneys practice law, typically by representing clients with legal issues, often in court. Clients may include individuals, nonprofit organizations, businesses, and government agencies. A considerable amount of a lawyers' daily responsibilities include conducting research, filing lawsuits, and preparing wills, contracts, and deeds.

An attorney career has many potential emphases and specializations. A legal student might pursue civil rights, communications, taxation, real estate, or intellectual property law, to name a few examples. Additionally, each specific field of law comes with unique job responsibilities. Family lawyers might give clients legal advice about divorce or adoption. Tax lawyers advise corporations on their tax obligations.

In addition, many lawyers find employment with government agencies. While prosecutors charge people who break the law on behalf of government organizations, public defense attorneys provide legal services for people who cannot afford to hire private lawyers. These attorneys work at the local, state, and federal levels.

Learn More About Attorney Careers

For those considering an attorney career, the following link describes what attorneys do, the soft and hard skills they need to succeed, and requirements to enter the field.

Attorney Job Description: What You’ll Do

Attorney Salary and Job Growth

The time and finances required to successfully complete law school are a considerable investment. Therefore, aspiring attorneys should evaluate potential salaries to determine whether the investment is right for them. Keep in mind, predicting future pay does not follow a simple formula. Salaries vary by location, education level, and experience. It also depends on what type of law is being practiced. Corporate lawyers, trial attorneys, and medical lawyers tend to earn more than public defenders, for example.

Learn More About Attorney Salaries

The following resource provides information on attorney salaries. The page offers salary and job growth data, comparing and contrasting the earning potential of various career paths within the industry.

Attorney Job Salary: What You’ll Earn

Interview Spotlight

Attorney Matt C. Pinsker owns and operates a criminal defense practice and has tried hundreds of cases. He previously served as a state prosecutor and magistrate as well as a federal special prosecutor for the US Department of Justice. He also teaches criminal justice and homeland security as a professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, and serves as a Judge Advocate in the US Army Reserves. A prolific author, he has multiple articles published on constitutional law in peer reviewed journals, co-authored a textbook on national security, and has a book about border security being published in August of 2019. He holds a BA from the College of William and Mary, a JD from West Virginia University College of Law, and an LLM in National Security and US Foreign Relations Law from The George Washington University Law School.

Take the Next Steps

People serious about becoming attorneys can prepare themselves by doing their research. Luckily, they can find many online resources giving specific details about legal and criminal justice degrees and jobs. The two links below outline important information about careers in law.

Explore Degrees in Legal Studies

This resource breaks down a typical bachelor's degree in legal studies. It describes example courses and concentrations, in addition to information on tuition costs, tuition financing opportunities, and program lengths.

Explore Other Careers in Criminal Justice

This webpage lists several potential degrees in the criminal justice field at associate, bachelor's, and graduate degree levels. The resource also gives detailed information on potential law enforcement and legal careers within the field.

Professional Organizations and Resources for Attorneys

Professional associations aid law students and attorneys by giving them networking opportunities and legal resources. These organizations offer several tools to help professionals stay informed, like continuing education courses, trade journals and publications, and podcasts. These groups offer many advantages to law students, too. Students and recent graduates can meet with professionals at conferences and workshops, and they can search for jobs through career portals. Students can often find scholarship funding opportunities too. Individuals still in college or law school typically receive discounted membership rates and conference tickets.

  • American Bar Association This group not only provides law school accreditation, but also offers benefits to its professional members. For instance, members can attend webinars and teleconferences, access job postings, and join niche groups focusing on specific types of law, like business or family law.
  • The American Association for Justice This group specifically serves trial attorneys and promotes a fair and effective justice system. The organization hosts two major conferences, promotes legal research, and offers scholarships for law students.